The porcelain perfection of Catherine Deneuve (Repulsion) hides a cracked interior in the actress’s most iconic role: SÃ©verine, a chilly Paris housewife by night, a bordello prostitute by day. This surreal and erotic late-sixties daydream from provocateur for the ages Luis BuÃ±uel (Viridiana) is an examination of desire and fetishistic pleasure (its characters’ and its viewers’), as well as a gently absurdist take on contemporary social mores and class divisions. Fantasy and reality commingle in this burst of cinematic transgression, which was one of BuÃ±uel’s biggest hits.
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES • New high-definition digital restoration • Audio commentary featuring Michael Wood, author of the BFI Film Classics book Belle de jour • New video piece featuring writer and sexual-politics activist Susie Bright and film scholar Linda Williams • New interview with screenwriter Jean-Claude CarriÃ¨re • Excerpt from the French television program CinÃ©ma, featuring interviews with CarriÃ¨re and actress Catherine Deneuve • Original and American release trailers • New and improved English subtitle translation • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Melissa Anderson and a 1970s interview with director Luis BuÃ±uel
A young Paris housewife, Séverine, grows bored with her stable husband. When she learns of the presence of a high-class brothel in her neighborhood, she quietly goes to work there--but only during the day, until five o'clock in the afternoon. This sublime 1967 film is one of the latter-day masterpieces of the Spanish-born director Luis Buñuel, whose career forms one of the greatest and boldest arcs in cinema. By the time of Belle de Jour
, Buñuel had become almost completely deadpan in his style, which not only leaves the motivation of Séverine a mystery (despite a few flashbacks to degradations of her youth), but also casts the entire plot in doubt. An old surrealist from the 1920s (when his first classic, Un Chien Andalou
, was made in collaboration with Salvador Dali), Buñuel suggests that what we see may be real, or simply Séverine's imagination. Because he was the least pretentious of directors, Buñuel keeps his material playful, wicked, yet cutting. As Séverine, the impossibly lovely Catherine Deneuve uses her cool demeanor to great effect--she never breaks her deadpan, either. In 1995, after having been out of official circulation for years, Belle de Jour
was re-released in America and became an unexpected art-house hit. --Robert Horton